In the fourth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL), the Marina Arena had reverberated with the chant of “He is one of our own” as local lad and Chennaiyin FC midfield pivot Dhanpal Ganesh had been a regular feature under the then manager John Gregory.
Following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Ganesh earned successive starts at the beginning of ISL 6 only to unluckily hurt himself once again after four matches. Just when the CFC supporters worried there would be a repeat of the fifth edition, new recruit Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, also a Chennai native, allayed those fears by nailing a spot in the playing eleven.
Since making the move from the current I-League holder Chennai City FC, Edwin has been an ever-present in the Chennaiyin team sheet. “Fans are happy that at least one local boy is playing regularly for their club. But at the same time, they are a bit sad as Ganesh has hardly been involved with the first-team in the last one-and-a-half years,” Edwin told DT Next.
“During our games at the (Jawaharlal) Nehru Stadium, the supporters are usually at the top of their voice. Playing at home gives you a different feeling. One tends to compete fearlessly and with a lot of determination,” said the multi-skilled footballer, who is capable of switching positions effortlessly.
An avid CFC follower would have spotted Edwin making some moves off the pitch as well, shaking his legs in front of Supermachans and B Stand Blues – the fan clubs of the two-time champion. Terming himself an “easy going person”, the 27-year-old revealed his intention is to put at least a little smile on the faces of the aficionados.
“After winning games, you must have seen me dancing. Those off-field activities aren’t pre-planned. I just go with the flow. When we lose, fans send me text messages in social media, expressing their disappointment. Sometimes, I respond jokingly just to light up their mood,” he added.
As holding midfielder Germanpreet Singh was suspended for the NorthEast United FC duel on January 16, Chennaiyin gaffer Owen Coyle was forced to shuffle his pack. Looking for a stopgap arrangement, the Scotsman turned to Edwin, who not only performed the new role to near perfection against NEUFC but also retained the spot in the centre of the pitch for the Jamshedpur FC game on Thursday.
“I am grateful to Coyle for backing me. Initially, I had a bit of fear. I was worried about what would happen if I flop in my new position. During the NorthEast match, the coach was constantly motivating me from the touchline. He told me I was controlling the game well alongside Anirudh Thapa. I think I did decent work in the last two contests,” signed off Edwin.